The Chief Executives of Star Alliance member airlines, representing one-third of the global aviation industry, met December 12 to 13 in Vienna to discuss the strategic development of the Alliance, including the benefits offered to its most loyal customers, its membership strategy and important projects and topics for 2014.
Calin Rovinescu, Chief Executive of Air Canada and Chairman of the Alliance’s Chief Executive Board (CEB), said the chief executives reaffirmed that the universal offering of the Star Alliance Gold status benefits across the network was a major attraction of the Alliance for customers and that every effort must be made to deliver these benefits consistently across the globe.
“Star Alliance’s aim is to deliver our promises for our customers consistently on every trip in any part of the world,” Rovinescu said. “We continue to review the steps that have been taken to ensure this promise is carried through in every location Star Alliance serves, and will continue to make this our focus going forward.”
The attractiveness of the Gold status has been illustrated in recent weeks by the high level of participation in a Star Alliance competition offering Gold membership in one of the Star Alliance frequent flyer programmes as a prize. The competition, accessible from www.staralliance.com, has drawn over a quarter of a million interested visitors.
A further central topic in the CEOs’ discussions was the Alliance’s membership strategy, which focuses on having a strong global network that benefits both customers and the member airlines.
“After due consideration and analysis, the CEB agreed unanimously to extend Avianca’s Star Alliance membership to include Avianca Brazil and to recommence the integration process with Air India,” Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab said.
“This will allow us to maintain our presence in Brazil following the departure of TAM Airlines and to build a presence in one of the most important aviation markets where we do still not have a member carrier – the Indian sub-continent.”
Integration of Air India was suspended in 2011 to give the airline more time to focus on the internal challenges caused by its merger with Indian Airlines. In the two years since then it has worked through these issues and also invested heavily in its fleet, laying the groundwork for a major improvement in its services to customers.
Admission of Avianca Brazil will go some way towards reinforcing the Star Alliance network in Brazil following TAM’s departure in the first half of 2014, and complement the Alliance’s already strong position in Latin America through its members Avianca and Copa Airlines.
The CEB reaffirmed that the Alliance model was an important component in today’s competitive environment and noted that Star Alliance is not only still the largest of the three airline alliances but also has the most robust experience in growing its membership smoothly.
“Many of today’s global standards in aviation have been created by Alliance experts, for instances in safety, through check-in or barcode technology,” said Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz. “Alliances are good for the industry and will remain relevant in the future.”
Looking at the global development of aviation, Franz joined other European Airline colleagues in repeating the wake up call to the continent’s political decision makers.
“We urge them to come to grips with creating a single European Sky, we urge them to understand that continued investments into sufficient infrastructure on the ground and in the air is required to keep up with the global industry development”, he said.
Other highlights of the CEB discussions included a review of top Alliance achievements in 2013, such as the integration of EVA Air from Taiwan, which completed the Alliance’s network strategy for the Greater China region. In addition a new Star Alliance Lounge was opened at Los Angeles’ Tom Bradley International Terminal. Furthermore, investments in backend infrastructure were approved, with the aim of improving data flows to ensure that mileage accrual for passengers works more smoothly across the network and that loyalty status information is always kept up to date.
Looking ahead to 2014, the opening of Terminal 2: the Queen’s Terminal at London Heathrow on June 4 will be a major milestone for the Alliance, offering the first opportunity for all 22 Star Alliance member airlines that operate to Heathrow to be located in the same terminal.
“With over 23% of market share at Heathrow we have a solid presence in this heavily contested market,” Schwab said. “Today we are scattered around three
terminals: tomorrow we will be united under one roof, creating terrific value for our passengers who will have a more comfortable airport experience and reduced transfer times as a result.”
The CEB’s next meeting will be held In London to coincide with the opening of the new terminal.